I have been acting and producing for quite some time and I became inspired to write, direct my own project. I wasn’t sure what my first project would be and what topic I should cover so I prayed about it. Then one day I was watching the local news where two guys in their 20’s that were arrested for human trafficking, one victim had even married their trafficker. When I first heard this, I couldn’t believe it happened in my own hometown, Virginia Beach, VA. Virginia Beach is known as family friendly beach city and human trafficking was the last thing I would think would ever happen here. I didn’t know much about human trafficking, so I started to do research and what I found was shocking.
I always thought trafficking happened overseas and at the time of my research my home state, VA, was graded as one of the worst states battling human trafficking. This intrigued me, and I started to dig deeper. After months of research, I came across Tanya Street of Identifiable me. I reached out to learn from her and the information she shared was overwhelming and heartbreaking. I learned that human trafficking is a form of modern day slavery that violates the victim’s rights through coercion, force and fraud. Hearing her story was a wake-up call, discovering this happens in normal American neighborhoods. I was motivated to share Tanya’s story and asked her to partner with me and create a short story about her life and expose what human trafficking in our neighborhoods looks like. I felt the weight of the importance to effectively tell her story. Though I was so eager to go to production I spent three years meeting and spending time with survivors to culminate enough information to develop what you will see in our short, Groomed.
Filming was a challenge. Finding the right cast to play these parts was important because I didn’t want to show too much of rape or sex scenes but instead create focus on how the grooming process worked. I wanted to highlight how traffickers look like ordinary and approachable people who prey on vulnerable men and women. ‘Groomed’ demonstrates the psychological abuse and tactics traffickers use to control their victims and purposefully exposes sex trafficking’s grooming process so we can educate parents and kids what to look for and appreciate how easy it is to be lured in. Visually, I chose to portray the story through use of 2 Blackmagic URSA mini 4.6k allowing us to do quick shots in tight places. Due to the actors having to go through emotionally jolting scenes including rape and abuse, I knew I couldn’t get multiple shots, so I was conscious of the acting rigor and worked hard to create good technical planning to get the shots we needed.
Finally, I would like to recognize the crew and cast who worked tirelessly on this project. We worked tough long hours to finish this story we strongly believed that people should see. I am grateful for this strong and hard-working team and I acknowledge ‘Groomed’ is complete because of our collaboration. This short is the first of many human struggle stories I have planned to ignite emotion and awareness. I can’t wait to continue to build these stories for you in the near future.
Want your film project featured on Local Films? Fill out this form!